The Boy with All the Marbles

Not sure why this old memory came to mind. I do believe that the ability to recall and reflect helps us all remember who we used to be in order to help us define our identity in the current moment. Recalling playing marbles in my elementary school yard is my happy place today. So maybe my preferred “identity in the current moment” is three miles north of La La Land, who knows?

Marbles, marbles, marbles. It was an obsession, it was a passion, it was a form of insanity. I have no idea how or why I became obsessed with the possession and gambling of marbles, but it was to mark a phase of my young life that will never be forgotten.

Somehow at about the age of 7 or 8, I discovered the marvelous shiny orbs. The various breeds of marbles were Cat’s Eyes, Plainsies, Bumble Bees, Beach balls, and Devil’s Eyes. To become a true marble aficionado, you had to learn the terminology.  I won’t go into all the details, as they have faded with my aging memory, but I will enumerate the more flamboyant terms in the marbler’s vocabulary: Knuckle Down, Quitsies, Dropsies, Shooter,  Bombies, and Elephant Stomps. All of these “legal” tactics were used in the acquisition of still more shiny orbs, as marbles is, at it’s very basest level, a game of gambling.

We all had a “bag of marbles” that we carried to school, in order that we could play before the first bell rang and at recess. Each day, the future leaders of America would meet in the yard to play, no girls allowed, of course. We’d draw a largish circle in the packed dirt of the playground and drop a predetermined quantity from our bag into the circle. The goal was to knock a few marbles out with your shooter, which you would then keep (Keepsies). We always played for Keepsies, which inevitably ended up in some crying or brawling, as no one wanted their most prized marbles taken. One tactic, which I used to great effect, was the Elephant Stomp. This move, when called, allowed you to stomp your marble level with the ground, making it very hard to hit. Placing of marbles in the circle was done with a well kept secret within the mind of each player. There is nothing more devious than the mind of an 8 year old boy, I can assure you of that.

As an adult now, looking back at my halcyon days of marbular mastery, I realize that much of our societal woes can be traced back to this ancient game. Marbles have been around since the dawn of time. The terminology has been infused into our culture and the culture of many societies. What country, politician, army, dictator, or CEO hasn’t “played for keeps” so that they can get “all the marbles”.  And worse yet, if they don’t get “all the marbles” they may “lose their marbles” and pull an “Elephant Stomp” on the rest of the world.

I didn’t think that anyone played marbles anymore. I was wrong. There are national marbles tournaments throughout the world, and in fact there is even a world marbles tournament and a governing body called the World Marbles Federation.

I can draw but one conclusion, that these sinister marbles organizations are the training ground for the power brokers of our world.

All content copyright of Christopher Hammond